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Parliament has its best Monsoon Session since 2000, passes 12 laws

As many as 17 bills were introduced during the session and the Lok Sabha spent the most time—49 out of 102 hours—in legislative business.

india Updated: Aug 10, 2018 23:46 IST
Saubhadra Chatterji
Saubhadra Chatterji
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Lok Sabha,Rajya Sabha,Parliament
A view of the Rajya Sabha during the Monsoon session of Parliament, in New Delhi on Friday.(PTI Photo)

India’s most productive monsoon session of the Lok Sabha in 18 years ended on Friday. It was a session that saw a no-trust vote in the Lok Sabha that the government easily defeated; an effective floor test in the Rajya Sabha over the election of the Deputy Chairman, which the ruling alliance won despite being in minority in the Upper House; and the passage of 12 laws, including some landmark ones.

All told, the Lok Sabha functioned for 118% of the time it could have between July 18 and August 10, according to the parliamentary affairs ministry, and 84% of the Question Hour. The Question Hour is allotted for lawmakers to seek answers from ministers on various issues.

Commenting on the productive nature of this session, Pratap Bhanu Mehta, vice chancellor of Ashoka University and a political commentator, said, “This is often cyclical. The last year of the United Progressive Alliance (UPA) also had one rather productive session.” He also linked it to the no-confidence vote. “In this case, it is also an outcome of a change in the strategy of the opposition. Congress and the Telugu Desam Party thought a no-confidence motion would give them more visibility and offer a national stage. Disruption, for instance, would not have given Rahul Gandhi the opportunity the debate did.” He added that the BJP also had nothing to lose since it had the numbers and went ahead with it. “It was hard to disrupt after the no-confidence motion.”

The Rajya Sabha functioned for 68% of the time possible, according to the ministry.

Recent sessions of Parliament haven’t been as successful. The second half of the Budget session, between March 5 and April 6, was almost washed out, especially in the Upper House.

During the monsoon session the government survived the first no-confidence motion in fifteen years and the Upper House elected a new Deputy Chairman even as the Opposition stepped up its offensive against the National Democratic Alliance on issues such as the Rafale deal, exclusion of 4 million people in National Register of Citizens in Assam and non-implementation of promises to Andhra Pradesh.

As many as 17 bills were introduced during the session and the Lok Sabha spent the most time—49 out of 102 hours—in legislative business. A PRS Legislative Research analysis said this is “the highest amount of time spent on legislative business by both Houses in the 16th Lok Sabha; (and the) second highest since 2004.”

Congress leaders came out on the street inside the Parliament complex to protest against the government on Friday, but barring some sporadic protests, there was no threat of a washout, like the second half of the last Budget session.

Both Houses passed the Fugitive Economic Offenders Bill that is expected to prevent a recurrence of a recent rash of incidents where bank loan defaulters such as Vijay Mallya or fraudsters such as Nirav Modi have fled India for foreign shores. Parliament also cleared the bill for granting constitutional status to the National Commission for Backward Classes and amended the SC/ST bill to tighten the law against offenders. The two important bills aim to address concerns of socially vulnerable sections and can also be important political tools for the ruling section in election times.

Still, the bill to criminalize Instant Triple Talaq, approved in the Lower House, could not be passed in the Upper House when brought for debate on the last day. When the Upper House reconvened after two adjournments, Chairman Venkaiah Naidu announced that the Triple Talaq Bill can’t be taken up as a consensus on the issue is yet to be evolved.

With a year left for the 2019 Lok Sabha polls, the Centre withdrew the contentious FRDI bill that faced opposition from various quarters over the controversial bail-in clause. Finance ministry officials maintained that it may be brought back again after revisiting some of the provisions where concerns were raised.

In her valedictory speech, Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan maintained that the monsoon session has been “more productive and satisfactory” than the previous Budget Session and last year’s monsoon session. Both Mahajan and Rajya Sabha chairman Venkaiah Naidu maintained that the session furthered the cause of social justice with legislations such as the NCBC bill and SC/ST bill having a wide impact on the lives of the deprived population.

Addressing the House on Friday, Naidu said, “South West monsoon is very critical for the economy of our country and it has been by and large normal with only about 5% deficit in rain fall so far. And the Monsoon session of Parliament also brought new tidings marking a break from the last two sessions much to the delight of all those who have a stake in our Parliamentary democracy.” Still, while lauding members for this he reminded them that the productivity deficit still remains.

The Narendra Modi government also kept alive the chances of pushing the amendments to the land law as the joint panel reviewing the bill has been given time till the end of the 16th Lok Sabha to submit its report. The contentious bill proposes to relax norms for industries and developments for public purposes to acquire land.

“The discussion on the no confidence motion early on in the session resulted in diffusing the parliament logjam from the previous session. This then enabled the government to get parlimament’s approval on key legislation. One hopes that the bipartisanship on legislative extends to the winter session too,” said Chaksu Ray of PRS Legislative Research.

Interestingly, from the time the 16th Lok Sabha was constituted, till the end of the current monsoon session according to PRS: “fewer bills (have been) referred to Parliamentary Committees (26%) as compared to the 15th Lok Sabha (71%) and the 14th Lok Sabha (60%)”.

First Published: Aug 10, 2018 23:28 IST